MechWarrior Online is PC-only, free-to-play

Piranha Games has lifted the lid on its latest MechWarrior project, revealing some big changes for the series, PC Gamer reports.

MechWarrior Online will be the series’ first entry into the world of free-to-play titles. It’s currently on course for PCs with a release in the second half of 2012. The team-based multiplayer offering will try and simulate the story of the Battletech universe in real time, with each passing day counting as a real day in-game too.

The developer is insistent that this will be a true MechWarriror title akin to the original games. As dev pres Russ Bullock explained: “I think it’s really the MechWarrior you know. It’s fully first-person. It’s not a new interpretation. We’re modernizing things a little bit, I think we’ll get to those questions, but certainly it’s MechWarrior.”

Creative Director Bryan Ekman meanwhile described some of the new features headed to MWO. “Players will be able to band together in the format of a lance, which is four, and they’ll be able to band together as a mercenary corporation for hire,” he explained. “That’s not unlike a guild. We have a whole editor and mercenary HQ for players to explore that allows them to customize the look and feel of their corporation, their membership, the structure of how they enter battle, the lances, their names, ranks, and all kinds of things.”

According to Ekman, the game will also be making moves to resemble a tactical sim as much as it does a shooter: “One of our core pillars is what we call ‘information warfare,’ which basically boils down to controlling the flow of information on the battlefield, whether it be your own information, or the information of your enemies. We want to make gameplay be less about an arms race, where you start in a light Mech but you really want to get into an assault Mech, because it’s the best thing there is.”

Multiple teams and squad will feature in matches. Conquest mode will be the game’s main offering though a range of other modes will be available. Micro-transactions are in, but they won’t be offering any tactical advantages out on the fields. Both mechs and their pilots will be able to be upgraded.

Bullock sums it all up pretty nicely, saying: “If someone has played a combination of MechWarrior, Call of Duty, and Diablo in their gaming life, they’re going to have seen everything that we’re offering for the most part.”

The game’s official website is here. Expect to see plenty more on this one moving into next year.